FIT YOUR BASIC PANT PATTERN ONCE. USE IT FOR EASY DESIGN MODIFICATIONS.

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A NOTE FROM PATI PALMER: THE ALTERED PATTERN CHANGED OR A NEW PATTERN ALTERED? THAT IS THE QUESTION.

This blog is about using our basic Butterick pant pattern B6845 to create several different looks. While writing this, I reflected on the NINE basic pant fit patterns I’ve created for Vogue, McCall’s, and now Butterick over four decades as we developed our pant fit techniques which morphed into the Palmer/Pletsch Tissue-Fitting Method. Each had a simple, no-detail basic pant, easy for learning to fit, but not too exciting to some students. We should have written this blog years ago to help them imagine how many looks they could get from a simple pattern!

The guide sheet in this current pant pattern B6845 features the Palmer/Pletsch tissue fitting method, which we introduced in 2014.

pant patterns from the past

Vogue Palmer/Pletsch pant pattern from 1975

Vogue Palmer/Pletsch pant pattern 1798 from 1975

McCall’s Palmer/Pletsch pant pattern using fitting gingham, 1982.

McCall’s Palmer/Pletsch pant pattern using fitting gingham, 2002.

McCall's Palmer/Pletsch pant pattern M3740
McCall's Palmer/Pletsch pant pattern M5239 from 2006

McCall’s Palmer/Pletsch pant pattern using fitting gingham, 2006.

After writing this blog featuring Carol Stalvey’s and Helen Bartley’s design changes, I redesigned my basic fitted pant pattern into a 23”-wide leg, pull-on pant with front patch pockets. But guess what—it was a lot of work! I don’t mean difficult; I mean time consuming. (You can see my tips toward the end of this blog. I copied Carol, but lined patch pockets are not in our pant book, so I included instructions.)

When I finished, I had a serious discussion with myself! I said, “Self, you are a pattern designer, so why don’t you just go find a pattern that has some of the features you want? You really like patterns! They make your life easy.”

For example, I could have used my daughter Melissa Watson’s McCall’s pattern which already has wide legs (though it is now out of print).

McCall's Melissa Watson for Palmer/Pletsch pant pattern M7445

Who are you?

• If you are learning to fit pants, you may save time by changing your already altered pattern.

• If you already know how to fit YOUR body, it may be faster to find a similar design and do a quick fit on that pattern.

It’s your choice to make. Both are possible: change the altered pattern or alter a new pattern! See my conclusion at the end of this blog.

FIT A BASIC PANT PATTERN. THEN WHAT?
FIT ONCE, SEW MANY VARIATIONS WITH EASY DESIGN CHANGES!

by Pati Palmer and Helen Bartley

Simple changes to your fitted basic pant pattern can yield exciting new pants. We designed Butterick B6845, our classic simple pant, and made it a fit tool. If you take pant fitting from a Palmer/Pletsch trained instructor you will use this pattern. It is designed to make it easy for us to fit you AND to teach you to fit. The guide includes fit instructions. The tissue includes alteration lines.

If you want to try fitting then sewing pants on your own, it would help to have our book Pants for Real People and watch the videos Fit Pants to YOUR Body and Sew Pants That Fit & Flatter, which are available as DVDs and as streamable videos at PalmerPletschDigital.com).

B6845 features:

  1. Two styles with tapered legs. The easiest to fit has no trouser pockets or fly front. We use a back invisible zipper and a narrow non-roll waistband. Instructions for that view start on page 5 of the guide.

  2. After fitting the simplest pant, you can use the trouser pockets and fly front for your next pair—easy because the tissue is already fitted.

NOTE TO TEACHERS: As a convenience, the pattern has all sizes in one and includes hip sizes 33.5”-48”. (With ease, the finished hip on the largest size measures 52”. Add to side seams for a larger hip.) Now you don’t have to guess your students’ sizes if you include the pattern in the class.

line art of basic pant B5845
Designer Tip logo

We always say, “A pant is just two legs!” When your pattern fits, look at what you can do with those TWO LEGS! Helen Bartley and Carol Stalvey, both Palmer/Pletsch CSIs, model their re-designed basic fit pant pattern below. If you have the pant book, Pants for Real People, we’ve referenced the pages to read. If not, it is available at palmerpletsch.com and as a digital flip book at palmerpletschdigital.com.

Helen Bartley’s PURPLE TROUSERS WITH WIDENED LEGS

Designer Tip logo

HELEN SAYS: I used my basic pant pattern with slanted pockets, fly front zipper, and nonroll waistband, and then dropped in a lining before finishing the waistband, as shown on page 149. My design change was simply to widen the legs to 20” at the hem and to lengthen the pants to drape on my foot. I also lined them with a rayon lining and they feel wonderful! I’m wearing them here with a cowl top made from Palmer/Pletsch Butterick pattern B6847.

A few pant lining tips from Pants for Real People:

Helen’s Black Ponte Pants—Tapered Legs with Fold-over Elastic Waistband

Designer Tip logo

HELEN SAYS: I used my altered pant pattern Butterick 6845 and turned it into a tapered, elastic-waist pull-on. I tapered the legs both front and back at the side seams, starting on the original seamline just below hip to 1” deeper at hem. On the inseams I started from about mid-thigh, tapering to 1” deeper at hem. This removed 4” of leg width. I used the elastic waistband method from Knits for Real People, page 41.

foldover elastic waistband

Helen’s Pink Linen Pants with Single-Layer Pockets and Shirred Elastic Waistband

Quick Tip logo

Of course, linen wrinkles. We used to iron it, which was a pain because the minute you put the garment on, it wrinkled. Now, with the price of linen, we call them “status wrinkles.” Helen washes and dries these linen pants. Now they are “wash and wear”! We love the natural look!

Designer Tip logo

HELEN SAYS: I used my basic pant pattern and added 1” at the side seams while cutting out the fabric. This gave me 4” of additional ease for a loose linen pant. I widened the legs to 20” at the hem and cropped them a bit while still leaving plenty of length to decide how long I wanted them. I did a 2” hem with two rows of topstitching.

I made an elastic waistband using 1½”-wide Pamela’s Fantastic Elastic and a sewn-on casing as shown in Pants for Real People on page 113. I love this technique. Encase the elastic before pulling it to fit. Close the opening. Then sew three rows of topstitching ½” apart on the waistband through the elastic.

sew-on casing instructions
Fit Tip logo

Helen has a FIT TIP for using the single-layer pocket instructions from the pant or couture book. Make sure the pocket opening fits your hand and is the distance from the waist you want it. Also, where the opening stops, make sure the bottom of the pocket bag is 3” below so things will stay in your pocket. Instead of using the rectangle, she rounded the inside edge of the pocket.

This technique originally appeared in Couture, the Art of Fine Sewing. It was shown for dresses. We adapted the art for pants.

FYI, Marla Kazell, a contributor to and curator for this book, is now teaching at our Sew-Op School in Vancouver, Wash., just over the river from Portland. Her classes and workshops are wildly popular!

Helen’s Brown Linen Pants Looking Tailored

Helen Barley wearing brown linen pants made from pattern B6845
Designer Tip logo

HELEN SAYS: These pants were made identically to the pink ones except they are 22” wide at the hem. I creased the pants to give them a trouser look. Guess I’ll need to iron this pair! The pants are longer so the hem drapes on my feet. I hand catch-stitched the hem.

My blouse is View B of the new Palmer/Pletsch Butterick dolman/princess blouse B6898. And we’ve done a blog on it. 

Helen’s Blue Lightweight Denim Cropped Play Pants with Deep Side Slits

Designer Tip logo

HELEN SAYS: I used my altered basic pant pattern, sewing the view with slanted pockets, a fly front, and the non-roll waistband. Since this is a very stretchy denim, I took in the back inseams for a little more of a “butt” fit. I can still sit!

Helen Bartley in cropped pants with deep side slits
cropped pants, back view

Helen’s shirt is Palmer/Pletsch Butterick camp shirt pattern B6924. Check out our blog about this pattern! 

At the hem Helen made side slits using the “deep side slit” technique in Pants for Real People.

Helen's cropped pants showing side slit
deep side slit instructions

Carol Stalvey’s Green Ponte Pants—
Conversion to a Knit Pull-on Pant

Carol Stalvey in green ponte pants and turquoise jacket
Carol Stalvey in green ponte pants and turquoise jacket
Designer Tip logo

Carol Stalvey lives and teaches in Georgia. (See the teacher map at PalmerPletsch.com.) She stayed for a few days after a recent workshop to sew with us. Carol had a great top, an Asian-inspired jacket, and wanted a comfortable pant to wear with it. She used an interlock ponte (sounds Italian) knit, using her altered basic pant pattern Butterick 6845.

Carol took in the side seams to fit snugly through the hip to allow the ponte knit to stretch to fit. Learn more about fitting pants with negative ease in Helen’s book Fit and Sew Custom Jeans. (See resources at end of blog.)

She tapered the legs both front and back on side seams starting from just below hip to 1” at hem, and on inseams starting from about mid-thigh to 1” at the hem. This removed 4” of leg width at the hem.

She added 2” above the waist seam at the top to make a cut-on, fold-over waistline casing.

Here are a few knit and pull-on pant tips from Pants for Real People:

Fit Tip

Carol trimmed a length of Pamela’s Fantastic Elastic to 1” wide and put it around her waist. She pulled the elastic just a little tighter than she wanted the pant waist to fit because the elastic stretches just a bit when you sew it in. She marked the point of overlap and sewed the elastic ends together as shown on page 113, step 10, in Pants for Real People.

After fitting the elastic to the pant to determine the level of the waistband (Pant book page 112), Carol sectioned it off with pins in quarters, and sectioned the pant waistline in quarters, too. She serged the elastic to the pant top on the wrong side of the pant stretching pant to size of elastic, folded the serged edge to the inside and stitched the elastic down close to the serged edge to the pant across the back only. In the front, to give the pant the look of a smooth facing, she simply stitched waistband down in the well of the center front seam.

In fabric, Carol took in the side seams at the waist, leaving just enough room to get the pants on over her hips. This helps eliminate extra gathers in an elastic waistband.

Carol’s Tan Linen Pants with Topstitched Square Patch Pockets

Designer Tip logo

Carol used the same altered basic pant pattern B6845. She added width to the side seams when refitting the tissue, leaving a comfortable amount of ease for a loose linen pant. (HINT: You may just need to let out the 1” seam allowances.) The tissue just skimmed her body at the hip. She widened the legs at both inseam and side seam to straighten the legs. She added 1.5” to the pant top for a fold-over casing.

Carol added topstitched, lined, military-fatigue-style patch pockets with a curved opening. She lined up the top of pockets with the top of the pant and edgestitched all edges except the pocket opening to the pant front. The narrow pocket top is included in the fold-over casing.

Next, Carol used the same method of fitting, sewing, and finishing the elastic waistband as she did with the ponte pant, except she sewed the entire serged edge of the elastic to the pant. This creates the look of a sewn-on casing.

pant pocket close-up
For tips on the pockets and elastic, see my pants, below! Carol was my inspiration.
 
 
We like the look of the curved shirttail hem from the side view. Several Palmer/Pletsch Butterick shirt patterns have curved hems and other hem details. (Carol is in our book Knits for Real People!)

PATI’S TIPS FOR PANTS WITH CAROL’S LINED PATCH POCKETS

I’ve never sewn lightweight linen pants. In the past I used a mid-weight linen called Pembroke from a now defunct Irish company, Moygashel, to make lined pleated linen trousers. But here I am in a “wash and wear status wrinkle” linen pant. I liked Carol’s lined patch pockets because it makes future alterations easier. Letting out or taking in the side seams with Helen’s single layer pocket is more complicated.

 

I widened my pant legs to 23”, adding 2” to each leg seam allowance. I also straightened the center front 3/8” to give a little more width for my tummy. I added a 2” casing at the top to have plenty to work with during fitting. After trying on the tissue and making sure the pins skimmed my body, allowing enough ease to not stress the linen, I trimmed the excess tissue leaving 1” seam allowances.      

tissue alterations
try on tissue
Quick Tip logo

For an easy way to create 1” seam allowances, with front and back pinned together, mark the pins with a red marker so it will penetrate both layers. Then draw a line 1” away and trim the excess from both layers at the same time.

I drew a pocket on Perfect Pattern Paper and held it up to my front to see if I liked the size and shape. Then I cut a facing for the opening and fused straight grain PerfectFuse Sheer interfacing to the length to prevent stretch. I cut the lining to match the pocket and sewed the outside edges together.

I pinned the pocket to the pants, and they looked too wide, so I adjusted, making them 3” from the CF by cutting off some of the side seam.

Trim the seams and press open for a better edge when turned.

After turning, pressing, sewing facing to pocket opening, and edge- and topstitching the edge, I pinned the pockets to the front and edgestitched them to the pants.

After sewing, serging and pressing the leg seams, I tried the pant on with elastic around my waist. I pulled them up under the elastic until the crotch felt right and there were hanging straight, then chalked the bottom of the elastic.

Using 1½” Fantastic Elastic from Pamelas Patterns that I fitted to myself comfortably, lapping and stitching the ends together, I marked the CF and CB (center front and center back) and pinned the elastic to the pants. I stretched the elastic to fit the pant waist and pinned it to the side seams. Then I sewed it to the top edge of the pants.

pinning elastic to pants at waist

I turned under the elastic and tried on the pants to see if the waist looked and felt good.

Check the fit.
Check the fit.

Looks good. To anchor the elastic inside I stitched in the well of the side seams, CF, CB, and pocket front edges through all layers.

Then for the back waist, I sewed two parallel rows through all layers ½” from top and bottom of elastic, slightly shirring the back waist.

I wanted sort of a slouchy look, so I hemmed them long to drape on the front of my shoes. I left a 1½” hem, serged the edge, and topstitched the hem in place.

stitching in back waistband

I will totally enjoy these loose, wide-leg, pull-on pants for summer. I like them on me with a short top. I will go sew a nice rayon print to go with them!!

Pati Palmer in tan pants and black top

The pocket opening ended up a bit short, but only a tissue will ever go inside them!

Sooooo, which do I prefer, designing from my altered pattern or finding a design that is similar to my vision and altering that pattern? My answer comes from the fact that I know my body well (lots of practice fitting it). It takes me less time to alter a similar design than to make this many changes to my altered pattern. I love patterns because my pocket would have been perfect!! But, depending on the types of changes, I do both! You too can CHOOSE!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Pati Palmer in a green jacket and pants

I didn’t feature all of my mods in this blog, but the one I’m modeling in this photo is so easy. I had a soft lightweight rayon print, so added width to the sides and a cut-on casing for a pull-on pant to make a fun outfit for a Portland Frocktails event.

We hope this blog helps you to think outside the box when using a pattern you’ve already fitted.

If you like our blogs, please share the link with like-minded friends! Anyone can sign up for a new blog email reminder on our website.

Palmer/Pletsch pant patterns have alteration lines on the tissue and fitting helps in the guide. Go to palmerpletsch.com where you can see a complete lineup and also see “vintage” PP patterns.

I want to thank Helen Bartley also for her help making our blogs happen, with ideas, sewing, photography, and sharing on social media. I am so lucky to have her as our main workshop instructor in the Portland/Vancouver region.

Pati Palmer

TWO PALMER/PLETSCH PANT FIT & SEW WORKSHOPS OFFERED THIS SEPTEMBER!

Helen Bartley will be teaching our Pant Fit & Sew 4-day workshop in Vancouver, WA, just north of Portland, Oregon. Janet Dapson will be teaching a 5-day Design-Fit-Sew Custom Pant workshop in Michigan near Kalamazoo. Click on the images below for more information. Space is limited. Don’t miss this wonderful sewing vacation opportunity!

RESOURCES

 
Palmer/Pletsch books are chock-full of ways to redesign a basic pant pattern. 

Pants for Real People

Helen Bartley counted the number of techniques in the Pants for Real People book for these MODS: 

Elastic waistlines—7
Other waistline finishes—5
Hems—10
Pockets—14

Comfortable, Expandable waistbands chapter in Pants for Real People
from Pants for Real People

Try our favorite technique for a non-roll, professional-looking waistband using our Perfect Waistband Interfacing.

The Perfect Non-Roll Waistband chapter in Pants for Real People

Authors: Marta Alto and Pati Palmer (a photo from 1974 when I wrote our first book, Pants for Any Body!)

Fit and Sew Custom Jeans

The tulip hem from Fit and Sew Custom Jeans, could be used on any pant. Again, all pants are just two legs!

The jeans book author, Helen Bartley, models her yellow jeans, below.

tulip hem technique from the book Fit and Sew Custom Jeans
Hazel the cat

Hazel, Helen’s book writing companion

knits for real people

A quick way to do an elastic casing is from our knits book. Choose a spiral binding if you plan to follow step-by-step instructions.

Authors on cover:
Pati Palmer and Sue Neal in front with Deepika Prakash (in print dress) from PatternReview.com 

elastic casing in the Palmer/Pletsch book Knits for Real People

Looking Good…Every Day

And how do you wear all those pants? Looking Good…Every Day author Nancy Nix-Rice has the answers. She advises about color, proportions, personal style, wardrobe building, and more.

Nancy Nix Rice
page from Looking Good...Every Day
page from Looking Good...Every Day

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Audrey

    This site is amazing and I would to try all of it. I would need a helper to measure me! Thanks, Audrey

  2. Audrey

    This site is amazing and I would like to try all of it. I would need a helper to measure me! Thanks, Audrey

  3. Audrey

    I like the way this information was shown! Pictures of everything plus good Information! Thank you! Audrey

  4. M Louise

    All info in this blog is so interesting. I’ll try the different designs. I have your books already but these modifications make it so easier to upgrade the styles. Thank you. M Louise

  5. Judith

    This is a great post, but most of your posts are very informative. Thank you for all the great information, it has given me the courage to try making pants again.

  6. Shelly Demott Kroenig

    Hi I am hard to fit… and interested in getting help to make the perfect pant suit ( blazer and pants) for a graduation in May. I am disabled, and will need help from someone to somewhere it for me. I am very short and plump!…. Looking for straight leg pants, preferable color hot pink, fashionable, lavender, and or black. …. Please do advise and help me create the best look that is flattering for my body style! Thankful and Appreciative, shelly. Also, please email me, I am not on social media!!

  7. Shelly Demott Kroenig

    Hi I am hard to fit… and interested in getting help to make the perfect pant suit ( blazer and pants) for a graduation in May. I am disabled, and will need help from someone to sew it for me. I am very short and plump!…. Looking for straight leg pants, preferable color hot pink, fushia lavender, and or black. …. Please do advise and help me create the best look that is flattering for my body style! Thankful and Appreciative, shelly. Also, please email me, I am not on social media!!

  8. pati palmer

    Shelly, I’ve emailed you some resources. Pati Palmer

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